Saturday, November 7, 2009

Chris Harman RIP

I'VE JUST READ SOME VERY SAD NEWS that Chris Harman, revolutionary socialist and leading theoretician of the Socialist Workers Party in Britain, has passed away while in Cairo. Chris was the editor of the International Socialism Journal and prior to that, was the editor of Socialist Worker (UK) newspaper for 20 years. His bibliography was extensive and he wrote about damn near everything, including some important books that helped a generation of socialists find and keep their bearings in the years after 1968. His book Explaining the Crisis developed a strong argument of why the post-war boom ended and why it would lead towards greater instability. It was a very prescient book, given the current state of the global capitalist economy.
His article, and then pamphlet, The Prophet & The Proletariat was key to providing an understanding of the origins of Islamism that broke with most of the left's very dogmatic anti-religious viewpoint that prevented them from seeing the opportunity and necessity of working beside those influenced by the ideas of Islamism. I don't think it's an understatement to say that it was central to the SWP's ability to play a key role in forging the anti-war movement in Britain. I know it was profoundly influencing for us here in Canada.
Personally I have several strong memories of reading his material over my years as a socialist. I remember struggling through his extended article State and Capital, which was a survey of Marxist theories on the state and his own synthesis. It was tough going but well worth it. And I read and then reviewed his massive book, A People's History of the World, which was a very accessible approach to Marxist historiography of, well, everything. His histories of the German Revolution of 1918-1923, and of the year 1968 both influenced me profoundly. Only this fall Chris released a new book to explain the present phase of the crisis, entitled appropriately Zombie Capitalism.
My condolences go out to his family and comrades in the UK and beyond. Chris was a living link to the 1960s radicalization. He will be sorely missed.
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